Epiphany 5c

Preached: February 7, 2010

Only the Message of Christ Saves
Romans 10:13-17

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts is Romans 10:13-17

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call on him whom they have not believed? How shall they believe him whom they have not heard? How shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? Just as it stands written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who announce Good News.”

But not everyone has listened to the Good News. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?” So faith comes from what's heard, and what's heard comes through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-17)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

How do you get a message out? This evening for $2.5 million or more you could have gotten a 30-second message out to 80 million or more Americans, unless they're refilling their snack bowls in the kitchen during your commercial break. That's the low end price for adds during the Super Bowl tonight.

We live in an age that specializes in getting messages out. Creative artists meld sight and sound to grab attention. Others seek to make us laugh so that we remember the product. Still others push the edge of shock, crudeness, or obscenity to leave a permanent impression in our psyche.

But all this hype does not change the basic way you get a message out. By you telling it and someone else hearing it. That's one of the links in Paul's chain of rhetorical questions: “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14 NIV). You need a teller or preacher and a hearer.

The Apostle though was not laying out an add campaign as he wrote these words. Rather he was talking about the most important message of all. The Gospel. The Good News of Christ. The message of forgiveness and eternal life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. That message brings faith, faith that saves. Only the message of Christ saves. That's the theme to take to heart. May the Holy Spirit through his Word lead each of us to cherish that message in faith and to share it with others.

A. Cherish it in faith

1. Why is the message of Christ so vital?

Take to heart, dear friends, why this message of Christ is so vital. Verse 13 sums it up “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NIV). Mark well those last three words: “will be saved.” We're talking about the difference between salvation and damnation, paradise and perdition, bliss and bane. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and those who do not are lost, damned. They go to hell.

That's the road we were born traveling on, the road to hell. Jesus spoke of it like this, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13 NIV). The billboards on this road promise good things. “Do you it your way!” “You're in charge!” “Who needs forgiveness!” “Fun! Fun! Fun!” “Seize the day, party on!” All lies and propaganda. And yet we were swallowing it -- hook, line, and sinker. The devil was reeling us in, and we weren't even fighting to get away. We thought we were happy with the devil's lure hooked in our mouth.

But then the net came sweeping down -- not Satan's net, but Christ's net. His net caught you and me. His net rescued us from Satan's lure. His net saved us. We saw Satan's bait for the lie that it is, for the net opened our hearts to believe Jesus, to cling to him in faith. The net opened our mouths so that rather than holding on to Satan's lure, our faith calls on the name of the Lord. This net that saves us is the message of Christ, his Good News, the Gospel that proclaims his saving work for you, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Cherish it, dear friend. Cherish it in faith.

2. How do we continue to cherish the message of Christ?

Cherish the message of Christ, as each day you continue to call on the name of the Lord. Like the tax collector in Jesus' parable who beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13 NIV), so also you and I each day call on the name of the Lord for mercy. For we daily sin much. How often don't we feel regret that we're missing out on some of life because we follow Jesus? Satan's lures still look so inviting. We nibble even though we know better. We know the danger. Doesn't that make us even more guilty than the ignorant unbeliever? We lament and even complain how small the gate and how narrow the road that leads to life is. What kind of thanks to Jesus is that?

Call on the name of the Lord, dear Christian. For what a precious, saving name it is! Call on it in faith, faith that believes the message of Christ, faith that trusts Jesus. Hear his word. Hear those words he spoke to a paralytic but now speaks to you, dear friend. He says to you: “Be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2 NIV). What mercy he shows us! Hear his words of mercy as you taste his forgiveness in the bread and wine that bring you his real body and blood sacrificed on the cross once and for all for you. Hear his words spoken over you as watered touched your head and you were reborn into the family of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Cherish the message of Christ. How precious it is! For it alone saves. How beautiful the feet of those who bring it!

Think of that. We usually don't describe feet as beautiful. Dusty, stinky, twisted, crooked often seem to be more fitting adjectives. But that's just how wonderful this Good News is! Even the feet of those who bring it seem beautiful, for it is there feet that got the message to us. So precious is that message. Yes, even though you hear it through a dirty sinners like me, how beautiful the message, the message of Christ! Cherish it in faith. For only it saves.

B. Share it with others

1. What chain of events brought you salvation?

And share it with others. For only this message will save them.

Note the interlocking chain that brought you and me salvation. Paul starts at the end point, namely, you and me who call on the name of the Lord as his saved people, and he works his way back step by step to show how we got here. We call on his name only because faith lives in our hearts. That's the first link back as Paul makes clear when he asks: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?” (Romans 10:14 NIV). Notice how faith comes before calling on the Lord, contrary to those who insist that someone must invite Jesus in or say a believer's prayer before they can have faith. We call on the Lord because of faith.

But how did faith get into our hearts? Paul takes us back another link. Faith comes from the message that's heard. The message brings us Jesus, our Savior. Or as Paul says: “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14 NIV). But you can't hear a message unless someone speaks it. So Paul again goes back yet another link: “How can they hear without someone preaching to them” (Romans 10:14 NIV). And why did those preachers go out? Because they were sent, beginning with the apostles sent out by Jesus to be fishers of men casting the gospel net. So Paul adds the first link:“How can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15 NIV). There's the chain: the sending of preachers, who proclaim the message, which is heard, so that faith is created, and we call on the name of the Lord as his saved people.

Are you the end of the line? Or is this chain a beautiful necklace, so that when you come to the end the cycle begins again?

Think back to what we talked about at the beginning. Even in our age of hype and commercialism, what is the basic way a message gets out? A teller and a hearer. As hearers we cherish the message of Christ that saves. But because that message lives in our hearts, we are also tellers. For you see, when we believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead declaring us sinners justified in his courtroom, then our mouths confess that Jesus is Lord, our Lord who ransomed us.

2. How do you send out Gospel workers?

So the chain continues. You, who call on the Lord in faith, send out preachers. You send out pastors, missionaries, staff ministers, and teachers. That's one of the great blessings we have in the WELS. As you contribute to the work of the synod, you know that those your synod sends out as pastors, missionaries, staff ministers, and teachers have been trained in the Scriptures to proclaim the same message you hear each week from me. And just as that message of Christ has worked faith in your heart, so it will work faith in the hearts of others who hear it. Support this work with your prayers and offerings. Encourage your sons and daughters and grandchildren to consider serving the Lord as full-time gospel workers. Might the Lord even use you in that full-time work, so that you call out with Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV)? Might he use you part-time such as serving as a Sunday school teacher? So the chain continues: the sending, the preaching, the hearing, the believing, back to the sending again.

3. In what ways can you share the message of Christ?

And you continue the chain not only by sending others to tell but also by telling others yourself. Our Lord has chosen us as his people to “declare the praises of him who called us out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). Share the message of Christ. Share it with others.

As a teller or sharer, you don't need to worry about whether you're telling the right person or not. The message of Christ isn't for targeted marketing campaign aimed at a certain demographic. It isn't just for females age 16 to 24, or those over 65 living in rural areas. The message of Christ is for all. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NIV) -- everyone, whoever they might be, all who call on the name of the Lord in faith will be saved. This saving faith comes from the message that's heard. So share the message.

Now as you share the message, some who hear it will not believe. That was the case throughout history. Paul writes, “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?'” (Romans 10:16 NIV). So don't let rejection or unbelief from others deter you. The Apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah faced rejection. Although many will not believe, some will. So keep on sharing the message of Christ. For “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).

Be ready to share the message of Christ. That doesn't mean setting up a box on a street corner and preaching to whomever passes by. Rather as you cherish the message of Christ, gladly hearing it, others see how important Jesus is. As you call on the name of the Lord for help and mercy, show others that he alone is your Strength and Salvation. As you do the good that God gives you to do as husband or wife, parent or child, worker or employer, citizen or neighbor, give the glory to God, so that others praise your Father in heaven. As you live in hope that is centered on Jesus, be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have. As you show love, kindness, and forgiveness, tell others of God's love that gave his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but the sins of the whole world. Share the message of Christ. Our acts of love may make others curious, but it's only the message of Christ that works faith.

We don't need $2.5 million dollars for a Super Bowl commercial or some other kind of sensationalism. Rather the Christian love you show in a world that is ever growing colder draws the attention of others. Don't forfeit that opportunity. Use it to share the message of Christ, the message that you cherish, the only message that saves.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313